February 3, 2007

iPod: The Missing Manual

iPod: The Missing Manual by J.D. Biersdorfer
Finished on 1/31/07
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)

I had to buy a new cell phone this week. I don’t know how long I had my old phone (it was originally my husband’s; he passed it on to me when he got his fancy Treo), but I'm pretty sure we got our money’s worth out of it. It was so old, it didn’t even have a camera. Gasp! But it was time. The screen had died, obviously making it difficult to see my contact list, let alone see who was calling. Since we dropped our land-line a few years ago, my cell phone was no longer a luxury. I relied on it, in spite of the fact that I really don’t like to talk on the phone. Well, other than to my parents, husband, daughter, granddaughter (although it’s tough to get a 4-year-old to carry on much of a conversation), and a couple of close friends.

That said, I’d been putting off the new purchase for a few weeks, but finally got over to that big box store (you know, the one where the employees look like they could work at Blockbuster on their lunch hour?) and spent what seemed like hours trying to making sense of all the different phones and companies. I’ve been pretty happy with my current carrier, but considered making a switch if the cost and plan worked to my advantage. I was certain someone would be able to help me sort through all my options. Hello? Does anybody work here? I think I’ve entered the stage of life in which I’m now invisible. Had I walked in with my gorgeous, tall and lanky twenty-something-year-old daughter, swarms of (male) employees would have been jumping over each other, eager to help in any way they could. But no, I was alone. And apparently invisible. After spending over twenty minutes perusing the phones and literature, I finally looked at one of the four salesmen standing directly to my left and said, “Can you please help me?” From there, it was smooth sailing. Well, until I got home and discovered I really don’t know how to use my new phone!

I’ve always resisted new technologies. Back in the late 80’s I never really wanted a computer and told Rod that a word processor would be nice for typing up my chatty letters, but why in the world would I need to get online (remember Prodigy?), let alone use email? I preferred sending and receiving my mail the old-fashioned way, thank you very much. Of course that attitude quickly went by the wayside and I became a huge fan of the ease and speed of email, went on to join several internet-based book groups, started a blog (which quickly multiplied to four!), and upgraded my SLR Canon Rebel to a Fuji Finepix digital camera (my husband still teases me about this since I swore I’d never make the switch from film to pixels!). However, I still don’t have GPS in my car (I’m blessed with a good sense of direction), but have been known to depend on my husband’s (which we nicknamed “Amelia” since she has taken us on the occasional round-about route) when we travel away from home. (I think he relies on his to get him to and from work!) So it probably comes as no surprise that I never really even wanted an iPod. I was perfectly content to listen to the decade-old cassette tapes I made to keep me distracted on long runs. It never bothered me to pack a small duffle bag full of CDs to listen to on my Walkman when we flew across the country on a vacation. I loved my Bose stereo that filled the house with crystal-clear music, one disc at a time. Why would I possibly need an iPod? But, as these things happen, my husband let me borrow his (a first-generation unit with a monochrome screen) and next thing he knew I was hooked (it had me from the moment I discovered the shuffle feature). I learned how to download songs and rip our CDs to my iTunes library, which currently boasts a grand total of 3,560 songs. I’m all set should get stranded in an elevator for 9 ½ days. I may not have enough to eat, but I won’t run out of music!

Fortunately, my new phone comes with a hefty user’s manual, unlike the fancy new iPod I received for my birthday. But lucky me, I received a copy of iPod: The Missing Manual from my husband a few weeks later on Christmas morning. Imagine my enthusiasm as I unwrapped what obviously appeared to be a paperback book (Oh, goody, a book! I love getting books!! I wonder which one it is? Oh. A book about how to use my iPod. Oh. Gee. I’ve never even heard of this book. Hmm. What? Oh, yes! I love it. No, really! How did you know this was something I’d like to read? And I didn’t even have to put it on my Amazon Wish List. Wow. I’m so lucky to be married to such a romantic thoughtful man. I can’t wait to finish what I’m reading so I can start in on this one. Thank you, Sweetie. You’re the best!) Yep, I was pretty certain this would not be anything I’d wind up blogging about, but I admit it, I was wrong. (Yes, Rod. I was wrong.) This is a great book! I read the entire thing, cover-to-cover, Post-It Notes flying about, iPod in hand, iTunes opened on my computer, gushing over dinner about all the cool things I could do with my iPod other than simply listen to music. Of course it plays videos, podcasts, and audio books, but there’s so much more that I was completely unaware of. For instance, I learned how to revert my iPod back to English should someone play a practical joke and set it to a foreign language. (Ever try following a set of menu prompts in Greek or Esperanto?!)

I also discovered that not only can I upload my favorite pictures to the iPod, but I can create a soundtrack, combine the two, hook the iPod up to my tv and, voilĂ , instant slide show! If I’m out and about and realize I’ve forgotten to bring along a book, I can whip out my iPod and amuse myself with one of the many included games. I especially like Music Quiz (remember Name That Tune?). Of course nobody else can hear the music, so shouting out a random song title is sure to draw attention.

In addition to music, videos, pictures and games, the iPod has a stopwatch, clock, alarm clock, contact list & calendar (in theory I can synch these with those on my computer – haven’t tried it yet, so we’ll see), and a notepad. Very similar to my Hewlett-Packard iPAQ. (Oh, ya. Another bit of technology I swore I’d never need.) It can also be used as a portable hard drive, as well as an audio recording device (this requires the use of a separate microphone). Amazing! How did I ever live without it?!

Like most things in life, there may come a time when my iPod simply refuses to work the way it should. This handy-dandy book explains clearly, step-by-step, exactly what to do. Nice to know I can figure it out on my own. I tend to depend on my husband far too much when it comes to computer-related problems. There’s also a section that describes the plethora of accessories available to run the iPod through your car stereo system or dock it in a fancy system in your home or office.

In addition to the features of the iPod, this book goes into great detail about iTunes, the surface of which I’d only just barely scratched. I learned I can browse my personal library in three different views, change a song’s start and stop time (this is nice if the recording is from a live concert and I want to skip all the chit-chat), edit the information of a particular album (wonderful to FINALLY know how skip all that Christmas music while in the shuffle mode in the middle of summer!), print playlists and create miniature collages of the album covers for custom-made jewel case liner notes, download and subscribe to Podcasts, create an iTunes wish list (that includes the 30-second song preview with the Buy Song button), and finally, for when I have to go out and buy a new computer, deauthorize my old computer since iTunes only allows you to play purchased music on a total of six computers (copy protection is copy protection).

Whether you’re a new iPod owner or simply want to learn more about the available goodies, I can’t recommend this book enough. The author has written an informative yet witty manual that is easy to understand with its large, sharp color screen shots and photographs, divided into useful chapters for quick reference. I can’t imagine ever wanting to create my own podcast, but I think I know better now than to say never. I do know that when I make that technological leap, iPod: The Missing Manual will be the perfect guide to help walk me through the process, step-by-step. Until then, I need to go figure out how to send a text message to my daughter in Italy. Hmmm, I wonder if there’s a Missing Manual for the MOTORAZR V3.


  1. First of all, while your daughter is indeed beautiful, she is not more lovely than you. Secondly, getting help is next to impossible. (I went to Macy's to try on the new Diesel "tennis" shoes, which the salesman plopped on the floor in front of me before leaving. Hello, am I an K Mart? What happened to being measured, and the person tying the shoe on your foot for you?) Anyway, there's also the other problem of you can't get a good view of the merchandise without being accosted. Perhaps the problem is me, being too picky...I applaud your determination to not only seek a phone company, but to go shopping for one. The manuals now are just plain SCARY. I was thrilled when my new Canon PowerShot came with two booklets. One said, "Basic. Read this first." That's the kind of instruction book I like. So, if I ever buy an iPod, would you help me learn how to use it? :)

  2. p.s. While I always love reading your literary analyses, it's nice to read about other goings-on in your life. This is a bit tricky when it comes to blogging, isn't it? I mean, at what point do you leave a beautifully focused blog on literature (like yours) for a more random blog about literature-teaching-motherhood like mine? I'm not sure where to draw the line, but I do enjoy a glimpse into other aspects of your life and wisdom.

  3. Les, I've anxiously been awaiting your review since you first mentioned you received this book for Christmas. I have learned how to download music and audiobooks from the library, but I need help with all the other things. I can see I need to buy this. Thanks for your review. It is quite amazing that an iPod would not come with a manual!

  4. Bellezza - You're too kind. Thank you for your sweet compliment. And as we've previously discussed, I really hate the poor manners of sales clerks and have gotten to the point where I'd much rather just shop online than go out to the mall or big box stores. I don't think you're being picky. I think there's a middle ground to how one should offer polite customer service. When I worked at Borders, we were told to greet every customer we came upon, make eye contact and let them know we were there if they needed help. How difficult is that?! And there's something about the verbage. "Good morning. Let me know if I can help you find something." Less pushy than saying something like: "Hi. Are you finding everything you need? Are you shopping for a special occasion or for yourself? We have a special promo going on just today. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah."

    As far as helping you learn how to use an iPod, should you ever buy one... nope, I'll do better. I'll buy you a copy of this book! ;)

    I'm glad you enjoy my off-topic blog-fodder. Yes, it is a bit tricky trying to decide how much to include in my blog, especially since I'm still struggling with the idea of keeping it as closely related to books as possible. Notice I haven't done my letter M meme yet? I figure if I'm just not comfortable with posting something a bit off-topic, I'll just trust my gut. But you never know. I may just pick a day to post nothing but random information about my life with my husband and kitty.

    Booklogged - I'm so glad you enjoyed the review. I don't think you can go wrong with this book. I'd pass mine on to you, but I'm afraid it's the sort of book I'll refer back to over and over again.

    By the way, if you haven't already ordered it, and plan to buy it from Amazon, would you mind clicking on either the photo link in the sidebar or the title link in the review to take you to Amazon to place your order? Those links re-direct you to my Amazon Associate account number and I get credit for purchases made off my blog. Not a big revenue-maker, but the totals have started accumulating and I'll probably get a nice referral check next quarter. Don't fret if you've already placed your order elsewhere. Just thought I'd mention it since I'm not sure how many people know about the program with Amazon.

  5. Les, you make me want to buy this for my daughters (both avid iPod users), but I will check with them first. Thanks also for letting us know about the Amazon program. It looks like something I should check out.

    This was a most useful review. Thanks so much!

  6. I'm still laughing about calling the GPS "Amelia"!

  7. Excellent review! My son and I are going to share an i-pod some time in the next 3-4 months, so I'll definitely need this book.

    (Side note: My sister lives in Kearney, NE)

  8. Lotus - You know, your daughters might be more savvy than I when it comes to iPods, especially if they have friends who use them. I'm sure a lot of young people discover all the tricks of a new gadget simply by talking about them with their friends. Glad you enjoyed the review. I had fun writing it. :)

    Bybee - I'm glad somebody noticed that! It was a fairly subtle comment, but you have such a great sense of humor, I'm not surprised you caught it. :)

    3M - Thank you so much! I enjoyed writing the review. It's always easier when I have a lot of positive things to mention rather than simply saying "I didn't like this book!"

    I've only been to Kearney a couple of times (soccer games many years ago). I'll bet your sister had a rough go of it with the ice storm last month! What a mess!


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